Hunted: The Demon Forge Xbox 360 hands-on preview

We take the fantasy action game Hunted: The Demon Forge for a test drive. Here’s what we thought...

You can’t beat a good genre mash-up, and inXile Entertainment’s Hunted: The Demon’s Forge is a cheerfully daft amalgamation of game styles and ideas, all tied together with a fantasy plot that involves buxom elves, aggressive skeletons and glowing crystals.

Apparently influenced by every hit action game of the last few years, Hunted plays like a cross between Gears Of War, God Of War and an old-school dungeon crawler – hack-and-slash action and simple environmental puzzles have been stacked up alongside cover-based shooting mechanics and cooperative gameplay.

Featuring an odd-couple partnership between a gruff, monosyllabic warrior by the name of Caddoc (who looks uncannily like the lead singer of US metal band, Disturbed) and a comely elf who goes by the name of E’Lara, the story involves a sinister entity called Seraphine (Xena’s Lucy Lawless provides her voice), the retrieval of a number of magic stones, and huge, hulking demons that have taken over a town called Dyfed.

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This, of course, was what we could glean from the brief portion of the game we played – demons appear to be spreading like a plague across Hunted’s fantasy world, and what we’ve seen so far suggests an epic, lengthy campaign.

Traversing the landscape, you can install yourself behind the safety of a rock and take potshots at enemies with your trusty crossbow, or wade in with your sword and take them down at close-quarters. There are magical spells to collect and upgrade, too, which can be mapped to the directional buttons.

As you’d expect, the game’s two protagonists vary greatly in their skills and abilities. Caddoc has all the manoeuvrability of a Sherman tank, but is brutally strong and great at close-quarters combat, while E’Lara’s a dab hand with ranged attacks and magic, but more prone to enemy attacks.

We played through the game’s prologue, which gave us an opportunity to get to grips with Hunted’s control system, and it’s a well-put-together 3D brawler that marries its close-quarters combat and ranged shooting mechanics together better than you might think – the crossbow comes in handy when faced with a large group of enemies who would otherwise crush you through sheer weight of numbers – the most common tactic, then (at least in the early portion of the game we played) is to decimate enemy ranks with your crossbow, before wading in with swords or axes to finish off the rest. In single player mode, the computer does a good job of whichever character you’re not controlling at the time.

The game really comes to life when played in co-op mode, and this is inarguably the way it’s meant to be played. Charging into battle with a friend, with one laying down covering fire while the other rushes in for the kill, is a lot of fun, and it’s this aspect of the game that we’d wager will keep people coming back to the game.

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Players can switch between the game’s two characters at will, and can work together to create the maximum possible damage – Caddoc can use his magic, for example, to super-charge E’Lara’s arrows to create an impressive weapon of mass destruction.

In terms of presentation and execution, Hunted lacks some of the big-budget sheen of the games that appear to have inspired it, but then again, there’s nothing wrong with a game lacking in originality or refinement if it’s fun to play – and despite some rough edges, Hunted’s hack-and-slash/shooting gameplay has enough pace and variety to prevent it from becoming stale.

Hunted: The Demon’s Forge is set for release on 3 June, and will be available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.

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